HORIZON BLOG: European R&D policy newsbytes

30 Sep 2022 | Live Blog

Horizon Europe is well underway, but the world of European R&D policy goes well beyond the confines of the €95.5 billion R&D programme. EU climate, digital, agriculture and regional policies all have significant research and innovation components. National governments often come up with new R&D policies, decide to fund new research avenues, and set up international cooperation deals. This blog aims to keep you informed on all of that and more.

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You can read the full archive of this blog here.

 

Till Mansmann has been named new green hydrogen innovation officer at Germany’s education and research ministry, replacing Stefan Kaufmann. 

Mansmann, a member of the Bundestag with experience in development and finance, will be responsible for steering the country's hydrogen research and development efforts, the translation of R&D results and cooperation with stakeholders outside the ministry.  

 

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), EU agency for innovation ecosystems, will establish a community hub in Serbia in 2023. 

The hub will be tasked with increasing engagement with the EIT’s activities in the country, representing all eight (soon to be nine) sector-specific knowledge and innovation communities (KICs) that make up the EIT’s network.  

The eight KICs in sectors such as health, digital, raw materials and urban mobility provide training and business development support for innovators and entrepreneurs across the EU. While their presence is strong in some European regions, others barely get coverage. To involve more regions and divert money to less innovative regions, in 2014, the EIT launched its Regional Innovation Scheme (RIS), which has been reinforced in 2021. The new hub is part of the scheme, aiming to increase the EIT’s presence in Serbia, where by the end of 2020, the EIT, established in 2008, had channeled €1.2 million to innovation projects, resulting in over €9 million of raised investment.  

 

The European Commission today published new EU guidelines on how to increase the social and economic impact of research results in a bid to help member states align policy principles and measures.

The guidelines aim to assist research and innovation organisations in leveraging the value of their intellectual assets as well as recommend the development of management strategies and promotion of skills to aid the efforts. 

The proposal is part of the plan to revive the European Research Area (ERA), the EU’s single market for research, which the Commission first introduced in September 2020. Boosting knowledge valorisation is a key pillar of the plan which policymakers hope will help the bloc harness the results of research and innovation to deliver solutions for its green and digital transitions.  

Drafted by the European Commission, the guidelines are set to be adopted by EU member states later this year.  

 

The first year of the EU’s new Horizon Europe research programme saw the launch of over 100 calls for proposals but the late start of the programme meant only 19 grant agreements, representing a €245.6 million EU contribution, had been signed in the first year of the programme.

The numbers summarising the first year of the €95.5 billion research programme are now available in a European Commission report that looks at the EU’s 2021 R&I efforts. 

There is not much to say about the EU’s big research programme yet but first impressions show it may be as competitive as its predecessors. While the 17.3% success rate in 2021 was higher than the 14% average, a whopping 66% of the eligible proposals were good enough to receive funding based on quality. This means many excellent projects submitted last year have gone unfunded. And the success rate may keep falling; as of summer 2022 the updated success rate currently stands at 15.8%.

The new report also provides preliminary numbers on how much money is set to be spent on Horizon Europe’s two biggest policy priorities: the European Green Deal and digital competitiveness. The estimates show 33 calls worth around €4 billion deal with the green transition, while 29 calls worth €2.2 billion will fund projects relevant to the EU’s digital goals. 

In 2021, as part of the work programme, €3 billion has been dedicated to fundamental science, €5.6 billion to big collaborative research projects, and €1.6 billion to disruptive innovation. 

Under the Horizon Europe umbrella, the Commission has also launched 23 public-private partnerships launched, leaving at least another 26 to go, concluded 18 negotiations on association to the programme with non-EU countries, nine of which have been signed off, and launched five research missions, spending a total of around €541 million to get the new type of programmes aiming to mobilise action beyond the EU research framework off the ground. 

 

Nineteen governments around the world and the European Commission have signed a call for open access to scientific data and publications on the monkeypox virus as the outbreak continues to worsen.  

The signatories call on scientific organisations, publishers and authors to share their research on open access repositories with permissions for reuse and secondary analysis.  

Back in 2020, research into the COVID-19 virus was similarly made available to scientists around the world in a move which enabled the rapid development of vaccines and drugs.  

Unlike COVID-19, monkeypox has been around for decades and has been studied extensively, with vaccines available, but much remains to be learned about how the epidemic may evolve and spread to more parts of the world.  

 

The House of Lords’ science and technology committee has urged the UK government to come up with an implementation plan for its ambitious science and technology ambitions, or they risk becoming “empty slogans”.

In a report published today, the Lords' science committee says the priorities outlined in the strategy are too broad and do not set specific targets. “There should be a clear implementation plan including measurable targets and key outcomes in priority areas, and an explanation of how they will be delivered,” the report says.

Last year, the UK government announced a strategy aimed at turning the country into a “science and tech superpower by 2030.” Also, in its 2021 spending review the government announced public investment in R&D will rise to £20 billion by 2024 from £9 billion in 2017.

According to the committee, the UK government had an “inconsistent approach” to international cooperation in science and technology collaboration. The failure to secure association in Horizon Europe has damaged the UK’s reputation. “A cross-government science strategy must recognise the importance of international collaborations and steps must be taken to rebuild the UK’s reputation as a partner,” the report says.

The report laments the UK’s lack of progress in talks with the EU to join its €95.5 billion programme as an associated country. Before Brexit, researchers in the UK scooped up €7 billion from Horizon 2020, representing 12.1% of all the awarded funds.

 

Last year, EU governments spent €109 250 million, or around 0.8% of their GDP, on research and development, 6% up from almost €102 791 million the year prior. 

Luxembourg was an overall leader in terms of expenditure per person at €689 per person, followed by Denmark at €530 and Germany at €471. But the differences between member states are stark, with Romania, Bulgaria and Latvia all investing under €50 per person in research last year.  

While slowly, EU public spending on R&D research is increasing. Average government expenditure in the EU stood at €244 per person last year, up from €184 per person a decade earlier. Countries such as Latvia, from €14 in 2011 to €45 in 2021, Greece from €58 to €152.  

The data published by Eurostat today is preliminary and will be updated in January 2023 but it gives a glimpse at the changing R&D funding landscape. In 2020, EU member states agreed to boost public and private research investments in research to 3% of GDP by the end of the decade. To meet the target, they will need to pick up the pace of investing further. 

Eurostat figures

 

 

COST, EU-supported researcher networking association, has assured research and innovators based in the UK and Switzerland that they are fully eligible to participate in its programmes.  

In a statement last week, COST specified that both countries, although left out of the EU’s Horizon Europe research programme, are full members of COST, which gives their researchers full participation rights.  

This means they can get reimbursed for participating in networking activities, can be the main or secondary proposers in COST calls for new actions, are eligible to lead ongoing actions, may hold grants and get reimbursed for participating in activities organised by COST.  

 

The independent committee will monitor the emergence of new health risks and inform government policy, replacing two previous groups that steered the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The new committee’s work will be closely linked with the country’s research and innovation system and existing agencies. The committee will be made up of 16 science and health professionals and patient and citizen representatives, to be appointed shortly.  

Two previous committees finished their mandates on 31 July as the state of health emergency came to an end in France. During the last two years, they helped inform the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its vaccine strategy.  

 

Spain’s State Research Agency will invest almost €18 million in 91 international research projects this year, thanks to the EU’s pandemic recovery fund.

The funding aims to promote Spain’s presence in the international research and innovation scene. In a previous edition of the competition, the country’s research ministry financed 71 projects with €14.3 million. 

Spain has been actively using its €69.5 billion share of the EU's recovery fund to boost investments in research and innovation.

 

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